This is part 8 of a 10 part “how to” series covering the points in the infographic below.
Of all the topics on this infographic, being “on a mission” could be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. Of course, it’s also one of the toughest ones to cultivate.
Or is it? Let’s explore.
Back in February of 2015, I wrote a post called, Is It Time To Rethink The Mission Statement?” My basic question was this: is YOUR mission statement doing what it was intended to do – unify your workforce toward a common goal?
Of course, a mission statement on a wall can’t do that. In fact, it really can’t do anything. To me, mission and culture are very tightly aligned because both require action… consistent action… to be taken seriously.
For some reason, when I picture an employee “on a mission”, I conjure up a vision of someone with a steely stare, a fire in their gut and constantly on the move. If they were a cartoon, they would have the little wispy lines behind them showing that they were swiftly moving about.
But this post isn’t about what they look like, it’s about how you get them there.
Here are some questions to ask to get the ball rolling:
- Does your company have a mission statement?
- If so, is it concise and targeted, or a stew of buzz-wordy mumbo jumbo?
- Is your mission supported throughout the organization with real-world behaviors?
- Is your mission something that employees can believe in and get behind?
Let’s start at the beginning:
Does your company have a mission statement?
I looked up two definitions to dive into this topic:
- Mission: an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction
- Mission Statement: an official document that sets out the goals, purpose, and work of an organization.
If you have a mission statement, great. You have organized your thoughts about the direction of the company and what you hope to accomplish/achieve. Unfortunately, most people stop there thinking that just having this written down or on a fancy poster will make it come to life. If that’s you, and you haven’t seen the results you are looking for, don’t despair… you are not alone. Pay special heed to the 3rd and 4th bullet points below.
The reason just putting up the poster doesn’t work is because we are talking a mission. An important goal! A purpose! Strong conviction! When was the last time a poster, and a poster alone, inspired you to do something? It’s usually the combination of interactions with others, an internal conviction of your own, a little research, the example set by others THEN seeing the poster may illicit some action. But usually not by itself.
So does your mission statement convey and reflect of the true goals and purpose of the company? As we’ll explore later, are YOU demonstrating a strong conviction or belief in that mission?
If you don’t have a mission statement for your organization, I am not going to tell you that you have to have one. Create one if you’d like, they can be helpful. But be careful. If you create a fancy mission statement and don’t uphold it through your actions, you will have wasted a lot of time. On the other side of the coin, if everyone is already committed to a common goal, and that oozes from every pore of every being on the payroll, a statement on a wallet card probably won’t deliver a lot of traction.
If you do have a mission statement, is it concise and targeted, or a stew of buzz-wordy mumbo jumbo?
A stated goal or purpose that is easily remembered and defined for the individual is the first step in creating a mission statement that will actually help you get people on the same page. Again, in-and-of-itself, the statement can’t do that. But if it’s clear what the goal is and what employees need to do in whatever position they are in to help achieve it, then you’re closer to having a mission statement that will actually inspire people to join you on your mission.
For example, I’ve always liked the simplicity of Herchend Family Entertainment’s mission: Creating Memories Worth Repeating®. We all know this business is about encouraging repeat visits to our locations, so charging employees at all levels with creating a memory that your guests will want to relive or re-experience is not only a great mission, but also a pretty great business model.
And, it transcends departments, making it easy to identify the types of actions someone in foods, merchandise, attractions, custodial, finance, marketing, sales, security, maintenance, admissions, etc. need to display on a daily basis to have a positive impact on the mission. Granted, their audiences may be different, but the process of creating positive memories for an external guest or internal partner are largely the same; follow through on commitments, be respectful, deliver more than you promise.
Contrast that mission statement with the one I used (and made up) for my post from 2015: To deliver unparalleled care to our clients with employees who exceed all expectations of quality and cooperation and provide amazingly unbelievable returns to our shareholders.
That probably looks nice on a poster in the break room, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that most employees (including the leadership team) couldn’t decipher what that means in terms of daily behaviors, nor would they know when they achieved it.
So if you are going to have a mission, and a statement that embodies it for all employees to embrace and uphold, I implore you to keep it simple.
Is your mission supported throughout the organization with real-world behaviors?
This is why your mission needs to be simple, easy to remember, easy to embrace (see next section) and the behaviors that support it need to be easily identifiable for employees at all levels. Why? Because if people don’t get it, they ain’t gonna do it!
This is where mission and culture either make beautiful music together or repel one another like two North pole magnets.
Every company (or team) has a culture. It may not be what you want to be, but there it is. And this culture, or the way stuff gets done in your organization, has everything to do with whether or not your mission will be supported.
Picture this: a brand new employee has just completed their orientation. They heard all about the company, the mission, and the do’s and don’ts. They get to their work location the next day, and either by implication or by direct example, are shown that things in the “field” are vastly different than what was discussed at orientation. The current culture doesn’t understand, buy in, support, or embrace the mission that the company is going for, and has decided to run things their own way.
And chances are, the leadership teams across property also don’t understand, buy in, support or embrace the mission either. Thus, the trickle down to the front line and now the new hire.
No matter what your mission statement is, there are some critical steps to be taken to translate the words on a poster into real actions and behaviors that will drive your culture:
- Define the mission – in terms of behaviors, and what it “looks like” to each and every role at all levels. On a daily basis, what would an accountant, supervisor, F&B attendant, or ride operator do that supports your goals?
- Live the mission – your culture is a reflection of what you do everyday. Are you living by the mission that you set for everyone else? Is the mission part of your daily meetings, goals, recruiting efforts, training practices, and termination process? In other words, is the mission reinforced in every aspect of the employee lifecycle? If someone, anyone, is acting in a way that is inconsistent with the mission, why are they still on payroll? (This is ESPECIALLY true of leaders and executives.) You cannot expect your new employees to embrace a mission that isn’t being supported by the people they are working with everyday.
- Measure the mission – is the mission part of how you evaluate your employees? If not, it should be. If you are going to expect people to do something, you better measure their progress. Once you have defined what the mission looks like, you now have the criteria for measurement, and even for seasonal employees, it’s critical they know how they are measuring up. “People will respect what you inspect.” I can’t remember who said that, but it has stuck with me for years. If you want people to provide great service, you better inspect how they are providing service. You want people to treat others with respect, you better inspect how they are treating others.
Even if you have a simple, easy to understand mission statement, if your culture isn’t supporting it, it’s just a statement.
Is your mission something that employees can believe in and get behind?
This is why you have a mission in the first place, right? It’s a beacon on a foggy night helping to lead your employees through murky waters. But, do they care? Is it something that means something to them? Is it a direction they want to go? Is the outcome important to them?
Lots of mission statements mention providing some sort of service to the guests. Why is that important to your employees (again, at all levels). I think it’s easier to understand this dynamic as a leader, someone who has invested the time to understand the inner workings of the organization. But to the 17 year-old who got a summer job, they may not have that perspective, not because they are stupid or lazy, but just because they lack the years of experience. So how do you frame your mission to provide great guest service so it not only makes sense to the 17 year-old, but also makes them want to get behind it and support it?
Part of this is the example we set, as we discussed in the section about the mission being supported by real world behaviors. If we value it, they will be more likely to value it, too.
The other part of this is looking at it from their perspective. We often think of our mission in terms of “what’s in it for the company?”. Since the success of the company is a result of the efforts of the employees, why not look at it as, “what’s in it for the employees?”, too?
Many of our younger employees want to work for an employer who is doing good (or the right) things. You know you already do good things (and hopefully you are doing the right things). Does your mission reflect that? Or, is the mission all about guests, business results and shareholder confidence? Does it address the kind of environment you are creating for your employees or the service they get to provide? And I don’t mean the tasks they do… that’s their job. I’m referring to bigger picture kind of service of escapism, safety, fantasy, memories, family togetherness, etc. That is a mission that people can get behind.
When all you talk about is ringing up a sale and throughput, you aren’t allowing your employees to embrace the bigger service picture. You are keeping them rooted in their tasks, not challenging them to be a part of something ultimately more rewarding.
And working to achieve a mission should be rewarding, because if it’s not, why would you want to do it?
Next up: Empowered
Thanks for reading!
About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.